'Sachamanta' technically strong


A visually stunning original work by Diablomundo, one of Argentina's leading theater companies, is premiering at the Maryland Arts Festival in residence at Towson State University.

Playing through July 28, "Sachamanta Salamanca" is a technicamarvel featuring haunting original music, impressive sculptures and fantastic masks.

As performed by the very talented members of this international troupe -- Miriam Gonzalez, Roberto Uriona, Marcello Frasca, Ibis Peria Logarzo and Carlos Uriona -- this piece is chock full of potent symbolism.

The performers are highly disciplined in physical movement and portray a variety of mysterious alien characters in an eerie, mystifying manner. Done mainly as a pantomime, deliberately ambiguous in its structure, the effect is powerful primitive imagery.

Mesmerizing as the piece is, however, it lacks an exciting text that weaves a magical story. Good pantomime always has a substantial text with characters the audience can relate to emotionally, silent though the action may be.

Based sparingly on the works of Carlos Castenada, the story line follows a young inventor who comes to a strange, barren world to seek knowledge from a wise old woman. He is painfully initiated into the secrets of the ancient Argentine rituals of

Salamanca (a frightening learning experience) and then embarks a dangerous odyssey of discovery.

Along the way, terrifying demons and ghosts attempt to halt his search for the key to love -- knowledge.

Although the sparse dialogue is spoken in English (with music and song in Spanish) it is difficult to understand the actors, especially Gonzalez as an unnecessarily guttural-voiced devil.

Splendid to view but slow moving and tedious at times #i "Salamanca" -- without the important elements of drama and character development -- does not really achieve its noble intent.


With the premiere of his fifth Baltimore Playwrights Festival play, Robert R. Bowie Jr. has created his finest work so far in "The Naked House Painting Society," on stage at the Spotlighters Theatre through July 28.

An engrossing little slice-of-life drama, Bowie's play thoughtfully probes the troubled relationships of two middle-aged married couples who claim to be "best friends." Fatalistic in nature, mystical in phrasing, the drama also contains genuine natural humor.

Michael, a restless spirit waiting for "something big" to happenhis pragmatic wife, Carol, and Brendon, a sweet soul devoted to his unstable spouse, Andrea, are all reunited at a vacation home after a 10-year separation.

The title is a metaphor for happier days. In a sense this is a memory play but memory is deceptive, clouding reality. When Michael and Andrea try to recapture an old dream, truth with a surprising twist steps in.

There are flaws in the script -- repetition and taking too long to arrive at a particular point -- but they are minor in this exceptional local work. There is good, taut direction by Jeffrey M. Heller and excellent performances by Mark E. Campion, Willie Brookes and Laura McFarland.

Another intelligent Baltimore Playwrights Festival work, "Whistle the Devil" by Kathleen Barber, is at the Fell's Point Corner Theatre through Sunday. This is a funny and gripping play about the conflicts between three sisters working in their family business.

Gail is obsessed with the business, older sister Margaret is consumed with jealousy and hatred for Gail, and youngest sister Bonnie just wants to be with her family.

Act 1 is strong but the second act does not fulfill the promises of the first. The repeat appearance of a salesman is redundant and the important character of businessman, Casmir, becomes merely a means of too much exposition.

The obvious, gimmicky ending mars what could have been a very descent script.

Outstanding performances by Trisha Blackburn, Michele Montagnese, Tony Colavito and Bill Grauer. But Marilyn Warsofsky as the older sister is too soft and hesitant in this domineering role of a paranoid religious hypocrite.

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